OH, goody! The Stanton-Douglass debates have not only broken out into half-page-Bettman-Archives-illustrated freshman history lectures in the Week in Review; they've broken out into actual accusations of crypto-racism. In other words, welcome to the world of Democratic Centrism, young Explorer! It's a comedy club with a five-drink minimum, but you have to write your own jokes.
(In case you haven't been paying attention this weekend, quick recap here, appropriately from Adam Nagourney with an assist from Kit Seelye; this sort of thing shouldn't be clouded in facts.)
Now, taking the longer view we note that in the midst of the most unpopular US military action of the modern era, a smoking pile of hubris, political calculation, and military miscalculation opposed by a far greater percentage of the population than either Korea or Vietnam, both of which led to the unseating of a sitting President, the Democratic party can't find an anti-war candidate. (Or the political will to stop the thing in Congress, but that's another story angle.) Instead, Senator Hillary Clinton, whose support for the war was either a) wrong; b) politically calculating; or c) wrong and politically calculating, was the clear front-runner right up until it was time for people to actually vote.
Shortly before it came to democracy, however, the basic unfairness and superciliousness of our campaign system came to the attention of people like Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert, and Brian Williams, who, together with Clinton opponents Senator Barack Obama and former not-Vice President John Edwards, set about rectifying the situation by pummeling Mrs. Clinton with their fists. The reader is reminded first, that in the melee Clinton managed to knock out Mr. Russert with a single punch, and second, that the headlines the next day concerned her vacillating support of a proposed change to New York state driver's license procedures.
The reader is also reminded that of the above only Maureen F. Dowd can claim both early and unequivocal opposition to the war, though it stands in stark contrast to her contributions to everything that brought us to the point in the first place. Senator Obama, on the other hand, had bravely stood before a crowd of anti-war demonstrators as a local Illinois politician and announced his opposition to the war, * before this leadership position was interrupted by service in the United States Senate.
As a result of the campaign's newfound focus on the Empire State's motor vehicle code, Senator Obama's heretofore mediocre debate performances were overlooked by literally hundreds of Iowans in their state's unique "I Know You Are, But What Am I?" caucus system, and his win there gave pundits across the land the opportunity to use "historic" as an adjective more than twice as often as they're inclined to anyway.
And Senator Obama's historic win, which came a scant twenty minutes before the New Hampshire primary thanks to the nationwide adoption of a political solution to the nominating system's not resembling a constant barrage of teevee advertising quite fully enough, led to a mass anointment of his candidacy. This proved somewhat premature, and resulted in an angry public demanding to know
But in the meantime the campaign got a little rough, and given that reasoned analysis of the issues is too tedious to expect the punditocracy to sit still for, the unchastened but now slightly uncomfortable Press cast its one good eye around and noticed that Hillary Clinton was a Woman, while Barack Obama seem to have a touch of the tarbrush. And so the Democrats finally had an Issue on par with the Republican question about
This is the Democratic party. You know, the one that isn't run by the proud inheritors of the ethics of the 19th century plantation.
Senator Clinton is a leading candidate because she made a national name for herself during her husband's presidency, then created her own organization, was twice elected to the United States Senate, has been the frontrunner for the nomination since the day after the last election.
Senator Obama is a leading candidate because, like Mrs. Clinton he's bright and articulate, made excellent use of his time in the national spotlight, created a strong organization, and has parlayed the early excitement about his candidacy into front-running status.
She's not the "Woman" candidate; he's not the "Black" one.
Neither campaign is blameless; both should clear the air, and without equivocation. But anyone who parses Mrs. Clinton's statement as "denigrating Dr. King" should be laughed off the stage. Or better yet, tossed over a cliff while listening to Phil Collins.
* Although noting he "didn't oppose all wars", including Afghanistan, which is a peculiar, if standard disclaimer, akin to a convincted bank robber assuring the court he's not an anti-capitalist.